More reasons to eat your broccoli

June 22, 2016, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Love it or hate it, broccoli is touted as a superfood, offering an array of health benefits. And it's about to get even more super.

University of Illinois researchers have identified candidate genes controlling the accumulation of in broccoli. Consumption of phenolic compounds, including certain flavonoids, is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, asthma, and several types of cancer.

"Phenolic compounds have good antioxidant activity, and there is increasing evidence that this antioxidant activity affects biochemical pathways affiliated with inflammation in mammals. We need inflammation because it's a response to disease or damage, but it's also associated with initiation of a number of degenerative diseases. People whose diets consist of a certain level of these compounds will have a lesser risk of contracting these diseases," explains U of I geneticist Jack Juvik.

The researchers crossed two broccoli lines and tested their progeny in terms of total phenolic content and their ability to neutralize oxygen radicals in cellular assays. They then used a genetic technique called quantitative trait locus analysis to search for the genes involved in generating phenolics in the most promising progeny.

By identifying the genes involved in accumulating these compounds, the researchers are one step closer to breeding broccoli and related Brassica vegetables like kale and cabbage with mega-doses of phenolic compounds.

"It's going to take awhile," Juvik notes. "This work is a step in that direction, but is not the final answer. We plan to take the candidate genes we identified here and use them in a breeding program to improve the health benefits of these vegetables. Meanwhile, we'll have to make sure yield, appearance, and taste are maintained as well."

The good news is that phenolic compounds are flavorless and stable, meaning the vegetables can be cooked without losing health-promoting qualities.

Once these vegetables are consumed, the phenolic compounds are absorbed and targeted to certain areas of the body or concentrated in the liver. Flavonoids spread through the bloodstream, reducing inflammation through their antioxidant activity.

"These are things we can't make ourselves, so we have to get them from our diets," Juvik says. "The compounds don't stick around forever, so we need to eat or some other Brassica vegetable every three or four days to lower the risk of cancers and other degenerative diseases."

Explore further: Research claims that vegetables fried with olive oil have more healthy properties than boiled ones

More information: Alicia M. Gardner et al. QTL analysis for the identification of candidate genes controlling phenolic compound accumulation in broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica), Molecular Breeding (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s11032-016-0497-4

Related Stories

New insights into how natural antioxidants fight fat

November 5, 2007

Scientists in Taiwan are reporting new insights into why diets rich in fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of obesity. Their study, scheduled for the Oct. 17 (current) issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, ...

Langsat peel a potential source of natural antioxidants

July 8, 2015

Langsat (Lansium domesticum) is a tropical fruit that is commonly cultivated in Southeast Asia. The fruit is rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, while the peel of langsat contains phenolics and carotenoids, and is traditionally ...

Recommended for you

Looking for LUCA, the last universal common ancestor

December 18, 2018

Around 4 billion years ago there lived a microbe called LUCA: the Last Universal Common Ancestor. There is evidence that it could have lived a somewhat 'alien' lifestyle, hidden away deep underground in iron-sulfur rich hydrothermal ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 22, 2016
Meanwhile other research showed that we have cause and effect around the wrong way when it comes to anti-oxidants. Typically when we see cancer, we saw large amounts of free radicals. Researchers then concluded that free radicals cause cancer!!! Latest research shows that cells produce the free radicals as a last ditch effort to SIGNAL that the cell needs to be destroyed. The cell is trying to commit suicide. Neutralizing this signal by using anti-oxidants actually promotes CANCER and does not reduce it.
Whydening Gyre
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 23, 2016
All it this time, I just ate it cuz it tasted good...
Go figure...

Interesting theory, BHJ...
How did you arrive at it?
What about when we see large amounts of free radicals and NO cancer...?
not rated yet Jun 23, 2016
The other issue is that broccoli is only as good as the soil that is used to grow it and those soils are highly depleted after a very long period of abuse.

3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 23, 2016
The other issue is that broccoli is only as good as the soil that is used to grow it and those soils are highly depleted after a very long period of abuse.

That's why farmers have been practicing crop rotation for..oh..just over 8000 years or so.
not rated yet Jun 23, 2016
@Whydening Gyre, wish I could find it now. I read it on here, last year sometime.

Studies have been done that show that taking large doses of Anti-Oxidants when you have Cancer, actually decreases the time you have left to live compared with what would be expected.
not rated yet Jun 23, 2016
I wish they would find me just one reason not to eat it. Worse vegetable ever.
In a recent BBC documentary, they showed that all these superfoods are just a gimmick and waste of your cash, since very little of these anti-oxidants make it into the blood stream. Also, the body has a normal level for anti-oxidants that it naturally maintains and when you spike it, it then tries to get rid of the excess and actually results in it dropping below normal which then takes a while to recover.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.